October 15, 2019 / 7:06 PM / a month ago

Consumer banking powers Citigroup's profit beat

(Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (C.N) reported higher-than-expected earnings on Tuesday off the back of its global consumer business, showing consumer spending and sentiment remain high.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the Citibank corporate headquarters in New York, New York, U.S. May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Citi, the most global of the U.S. banks, said profit in its consumer unit rose 13% excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, outpacing its institutional client business where revenue inched up 1%.

The consumer business was helped by more U.S. credit card customers beginning to pay interest as promotional periods wore off. North America branded card revenue jumped 11% in the third quarter, and profit in the U.S. consumer business jumped 9%.

Expenses in the consumer business fell 2%, partially offset by rising credit costs which have increased every quarter this year.

Citi has been leaning on its U.S. credit card business, which accounts for more than 60% of its global consumer banking revenue, to help it grow deposits by pitching checking and savings accounts to card holders. Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said that strategy has helped them earn more than $4 billion (3.1 billion pounds) in digital deposits this year, most of which came from areas where the bank does not have a physical presence.

The U.S. consumer proved to be more resilient than the corporate sector where clients continued to show more caution reflecting macroeconomic uncertainty. JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) also reported strong results in its consumer business.

Trading revenue fell 1% as a decline in equities offset stable revenue in fixed-income trading. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) both reported a rise in revenue from bond trading.

Citi also reached a key profitability target. The third-largest U.S. bank by assets hit a return on tangible common equity (ROTCE) of 12.2%, above the goal of 12% it has promised investors for the year.

ROTCE is a widely watched measure of how well a bank uses shareholder money to generate profits.

Citi has been focussed on building credibility with investors after missing targets in recent years. Estimates often hovered below the bank’s stated goals, indicating Wall Street analysts were sceptical management could reach the targets it had set.

The performance on ROTCE may be hard to replicate in the fourth quarter without the one-time tax benefit which boosted earnings by 10 cents a share.

Net income applicable to the bank rose 6% to $4.9 billion, or $2.07 per share, in the third quarter from $4.6 billion, or $1.73 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a tax benefit, the bank earned $1.97 per share.

Revenue was up about 1% at $18.57 billion.

Analysts were expecting a profit of $1.95 per share and revenue of $18.5 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru and Imani Moise in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Shumaker

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